Chapter 2 Installing R under Unix-alikes

R will configure and build under most common Unix and Unix-alike platforms including ‘cpu--linux-gnu’ for the ‘alpha’, ‘arm’, ‘hppa’, ‘ix86’, ‘m68k’, ‘mips’, ‘mipsel’, ‘powerpc’, ‘s390’, ‘sparc’, and ‘x86_64’ CPUs, ‘x86_64-apple-darwin’, ‘i386-sun-solaris’ and ‘sparc-sun-solaris’ as well as perhaps (it is tested less frequently on these platforms) ‘i386-apple-darwin’, ‘i386--freebsd’, ‘x86_64--freebsd’, ‘i386--netbsd’, ‘x86_64/-openbsd’ and ‘powerpc-ibm-aix6

In addition, binary distributions are available for some common Linux distributions and for macOS (formerly OS X and Mac OS). See the FAQ for current details. These are installed in platform-specific ways, so for the rest of this chapter we consider only building from the sources.

Cross-building is not possible: installing R builds a minimal version of R and then runs many R scripts to complete the build.

2.1 Simple compilation

First review the essential and useful tools and libraries in Essential and useful other programs under a Unix-alike, and install those you want or need. Ensure that the environment variable TMPDIR is either unset (and /tmp exists and can be written in and scripts can be executed from) or points to the absolute path to a valid temporary directory (one from which execution of scripts is allowed) which does not contain spaces.3

Choose a directory to install the R tree (R is not just a binary, but has additional data sets, help files, font metrics etc). Let us call this place R_HOME. Untar the source code. This should create directories src, doc, and several more under a top-level directory: change to that top-level directory (At this point North American readers should consult Setting paper size.) Issue the following commands:


(See Using make if your make is not called ‘make’.) Users of Debian-based 64-bit systems4 may need

./configure LIBnn=lib

Then check the built system works correctly by

make check

Failures are not necessarily problems as they might be caused by missing functionality, but you should look carefully at any reported discrepancies. (Some non-fatal errors are expected in locales that do not support Latin-1, in particular in true C locales and non-UTF-8 non-Western-European locales.) A failure in tests/ok-errors.R may indicate inadequate resource limits (see Running R).

More comprehensive testing can be done by

make check-devel


make check-all

see file tests/README and Testing a Unix-alike Installation for the possibilities of doing this in parallel. Note that these checks are only run completely if the recommended packages are installed.

If the configure and make commands execute successfully, a shell-script front-end called R will be created and copied to R_HOME/bin. You can link or copy this script to a place where users can invoke it, for example to /usr/local/bin/R. You could also copy the man page R.1 to a place where your man reader finds it, such as /usr/local/man/man1. If you want to install the complete R tree to, e.g., /usr/local/lib/R, see Installation. Note: you do not need to install R: you can run it from where it was built.

You do not necessarily have to build R in the top-level source directory (say, TOP_SRCDIR). To build in BUILDDIR, run


and so on, as described further below. This has the advantage of always keeping your source tree clean and is particularly recommended when you work with a version of R from Subversion. (You may need GNU make to allow this, and you will need no spaces in the path to the build directory. It is unlikely to work if the source directory has previously been used for a build.)

Now rehash if necessary, type R, and read the R manuals and the R FAQ (files FAQ or doc/manual/R-FAQ.html, or which always has the version for the latest release of R).

Note: if you already have R installed, check that where you installed R replaces or comes earlier in your path than the previous installation. Some systems are set up to have /usr/bin (the standard place for a system installation) ahead of /usr/local/bin (the default place for installation of R) in their default path, and some do not have /usr/local/bin on the default path.

2.2 Help options

By default HTML help pages are created when needed rather than being built at install time.

If you need to disable the server and want HTML help, there is the option to build HTML pages when packages are installed (including those installed with R). This is enabled by the configure option –enable-prebuilt-html. Whether R CMD INSTALL (and hence install.packages) pre-builds HTML pages is determined by looking at the R installation and is reported by R CMD INSTALL –help: it can be overridden by specifying one of the INSTALL options –html or –no-html.

The server is disabled by setting the environment variable R_DISABLE_HTTPD to a non-empty value, either before R is started or within the R session before HTML help (including help.start) is used. It is also possible that system security measures will prevent the server from being started, for example if the loopback interface has been disabled. See ?tools::startDynamicHelp for more details.

2.3 Making the manuals

There is a set of manuals that can be built from the sources,


Printed versions of all the help pages for base and recommended packages (around 3500 pages).


Printed versions of the help pages for selected base packages (around 2000 pages)




“An Introduction to R”.


“R Data Import/Export”.


“R Installation and Administration”, this manual.


“Writing R Extensions”.


“The R Language Definition”.

To make these (with ‘fullrefman’ rather than ‘refman’), use

make pdf      to create PDF versions
make info     to create info files (not ‘refman’ nor ‘fullrefman’).

You will not be able to build any of these unless you have texi2any version 5.1 or later installed, and for PDF you must have texi2dvi and texinfo.tex installed (which are part of the GNU texinfo distribution but are, especially texinfo.tex, often made part of the TeX package in re-distributions). For historical reasons, the path to texi2any can be set by macro ‘MAKEINFO’ in (makeinfo is nowadays a link to texi2any).

The PDF versions can be viewed using any recent PDF viewer: they have hyperlinks that can be followed. The info files are suitable for reading online with Emacs or the standalone GNU info program. The PDF versions will be created using the paper size selected at configuration (default ISO a4): this can be overridden by setting R_PAPERSIZE on the make command line, or setting R_PAPERSIZE in the environment and using make -e. (If re-making the manuals for a different paper size, you should first delete the file doc/manual/version.texi. The usual value for North America would be ‘letter’.)

There are some issues with making the PDF reference manual, fullrefman.pdf or refman.pdf. The help files contain both ISO Latin1 characters (e.g. in text.Rd) and upright quotes, neither of which are contained in the standard LaTeX Computer Modern fonts. We have provided four alternatives:


(The default.) Using standard PostScript fonts, Times Roman, Helvetica and Courier. This works well both for on-screen viewing and for printing. One disadvantage is that the Usage and Examples sections may come out rather wide: this can be overcome by using in addition either of the options inconsolata (on a Unix-alike only if found by configure) or beramono, which replace the Courier monospaced font by Inconsolata or Bera Sans mono respectively. (You will need a recent version of the appropriate LaTeX package inconsolata5 or bera installed.)

Note that in most LaTeX installations this will not actually use the standard fonts for PDF, but rather embed the URW clones NimbusRom, NimbusSans and (for Courier, if used) NimbusMon.

This needs LaTeX packages times, helvetic and (if used) courier installed.


Using the Latin Modern fonts. These are not often installed as part of a TeX distribution, but can obtained from and mirrors. This uses fonts rather similar to Computer Modern, but is not so good on-screen as times.


Using type-1 versions of the Computer Modern fonts by Vladimir Volovich. This is a large installation, obtainable from and its mirrors. These type-1 fonts have poor hinting and so are nowhere near as readable on-screen as the other three options.


A package to use composites of Computer Modern fonts. This works well most of the time, and its PDF is more readable on-screen than the previous two options. There are three fonts for which it will need to use bitmapped fonts, tctt0900.600pk, tctt1000.600pk and tcrm1000.600pk. Unfortunately, if those files are not available, Acrobat Reader will substitute completely incorrect glyphs so you need to examine the logs carefully.

The default can be overridden by setting the environment variable R_RD4PDF. (On Unix-alikes, this will be picked up at install time and stored in etc/Renviron, but can still be overridden when the manuals are built, using make -e.) The usual6 default value for R_RD4PDF is ‘times,inconsolata,hyper’: omit ‘hyper’ if you do not want hyperlinks (e.g. for printing the manual) or do not have LaTeX package hyperref, and omit ‘inconsolata’ if you do not have LaTeX package inconsolata installed.

Further options, e.g for hyperref, can be included in a file Rd.cfg somewhere on your LaTeX search path. For example, if you prefer the text and not the page number in the table of contents to be hyperlinked use




to hyperlink both text and page number.

Ebook versions of most of the manuals in one or both of .epub and .mobi formats can be made by running in doc/manual one of

make ebooks
make epub
make mobi

This requires ebook-convert from Calibre (, or from most Linux distributions. If necessary the path to ebook-convert can be set as make macro EBOOK to by editing doc/manual/Makefile (which contains a commented value suitable for macOS).

2.4 Installation

To ensure that the installed tree is usable by the right group of users, set umask appropriately (perhaps to ‘022’) before unpacking the sources and throughout the build process.


make check

(or, when building outside the source, TOP_SRCDIR/configure, etc) have been completed successfully, you can install the complete R tree to your system by typing

make install

A parallel make can be used (but run make before make install). Those using GNU make 4.0 or later may want to use make -j n -O to avoid interleaving of output.

This will install to the following directories:

prefix/bin or bindir

the front-end shell script and other scripts and executables

prefix/man/man1 or mandir/man1

the man page

prefix/LIBnn/R or libdir/R

all the rest (libraries, on-line help system, …). Here LIBnn is usually ‘lib’, but may be ‘lib64’ on some 64-bit Linux systems. This is known as the R home directory.

where prefix is determined during configuration (typically /usr/local) and can be set by running configure with the option –prefix, as in

./configure --prefix=/where/you/want/R/to/go

where the value should be an absolute path. This causes make install to install the R script to /where/you/want/R/to/go/bin, and so on. The prefix of the installation directories can be seen in the status message that is displayed at the end of configure. The installation may need to be done by the owner of prefix, often a root account.

You can install into another directory tree by using

make prefix=/path/to/here install

at least with GNU or Solaris make (but not some older Unix makes).

More precise control is available at configure time via options: see configure –help for details. (However, most of the ‘Fine tuning of the installation directories’ options are not used by R.)

Configure options –bindir and –mandir are supported and govern where a copy of the R script and the man page are installed.

The configure option –libdir controls where the main R files are installed: the default is ‘eprefix/LIBnn’, where eprefix is the prefix used for installing architecture-dependent files, defaults to prefix, and can be set via the configure option –exec-prefix.

Each of bindir, mandir and libdir can also be specified on the make install command line (at least for GNU make).

The configure or make variables rdocdir and rsharedir can be used to install the system-independent doc and share directories to somewhere other than libdir. The C header files can be installed to the value of rincludedir: note that as the headers are not installed into a subdirectory you probably want something like rincludedir=/usr/local/include/R-3.4.2.

If you want the R home to be something other than libdir/R, use rhome: for example

make install rhome=/usr/local/lib64/R-3.4.2

will use a version-specific R home on a non-Debian Linux 64-bit system.

If you have made R as a shared/static library you can install it in your system’s library directory by

make prefix=/path/to/here install-libR

where prefix is optional, and libdir will give more precise control.7 However, you should not install to a directory mentioned in LDPATHS (e.g. /usr/local/lib64) if you intend to work with multiple versions of R, since that directory may be given precedence over the lib directory of other R installations.

make install-strip

will install stripped executables, and on platforms where this is supported, stripped libraries in directories lib and modules and in the standard packages.

Note that installing R into a directory whose path contains spaces is not supported, and some aspects (such as installing source packages) will not work.

To install info and PDF versions of the manuals, use one or both of

make install-info
make install-pdf

Once again, it is optional to specify prefix, libdir or rhome (the PDF manuals are installed under the R home directory). (make install-info needs Perl installed if there is no command install-info on the system.)

More precise control is possible. For info, the setting used is that of infodir (default prefix/info, set by configure option –infodir). The PDF files are installed into the R doc tree, set by the make variable rdocdir.

A staged installation is possible, that it is installing R into a temporary directory in order to move the installed tree to its final destination. In this case prefix (and so on) should reflect the final destination, and DESTDIR should be used: see

You can optionally install the run-time tests that are part of make check-all by

make install-tests

which populates a tests directory in the installation.

2.5 Uninstallation

You can uninstall R by

make uninstall

optionally specifying prefix etc in the same way as specified for installation.

This will also uninstall any installed manuals. There are specific targets to uninstall info and PDF manuals in file doc/manual/Makefile.

Target uninstall-tests will uninstall any installed tests, as well as removing the directory tests containing the test results.

An installed shared/static libR can be uninstalled by

make prefix=/path/to/here uninstall-libR

2.6 Sub-architectures

Some platforms can support closely related builds of R which can share all but the executables and dynamic objects. Examples include builds under Linux and Solaris for different CPUs or 32- and 64-bit builds.

R supports the idea of architecture-specific builds, specified by adding ‘r_arch=name’ to the configure line. Here name can be anything non-empty, and is used to name subdirectories of lib, etc, include and the package libs subdirectories. Example names from other software are the use of sparcv9 on Sparc Solaris and 32 by gcc on ‘x86_64’ Linux.

If you have two or more such builds you can install them over each other (and for 32/64-bit builds on one architecture, one build can be done without ‘r_arch’). The space savings can be considerable: on ‘x86_64’ Linux a basic install (without debugging symbols) took 74Mb, and adding a 32-bit build added 6Mb. If you have installed multiple builds you can select which build to run by

R --arch=name

and just running ‘R’ will run the last build that was installed.

R CMD INSTALL will detect if more than one build is installed and try to install packages with the appropriate library objects for each. This will not be done if the package has an executable configure script or a src/Makefile file. In such cases you can install for extra builds by

R --arch=name CMD INSTALL --libs-only pkg1 pkg2 …

If you want to mix sub-architectures compiled on different platforms (for example ‘x86_64’ Linux and ‘i686’ Linux), it is wise to use explicit names for each, and you may also need to set libdir to ensure that they install into the same place.

When sub-architectures are used the version of Rscript in e.g. /usr/bin will be the last installed, but architecture-specific versions will be available in e.g. /usr/lib64/R/bin/exec${R_ARCH}. Normally all installed architectures will run on the platform so the architecture of Rscript itself does not matter. The executable Rscript will run the R script, and at that time the setting of the R_ARCH environment variable determines the architecture which is run.

When running post-install tests with sub-architectures, use

R --arch=name CMD make check[-devel|all]

to select a sub-architecture to check.

Sub-architectures are also used on Windows, but by selecting executables within the appropriate bin directory, R_HOME/bin/i386 or R_HOME/bin/x64. For backwards compatibility there are executables R_HOME/bin/R.exe and R_HOME/bin/Rscript.exe: these will run an executable from one of the subdirectories, which one being taken first from the R_ARCH environment variable, then from the –arch command-line option8 and finally from the installation default (which is 32-bit for a combined 32/64 bit R installation).

2.6.1 Multilib

For some Linux distributions9, there is an alternative mechanism for mixing 32-bit and 64-bit libraries known as multilib. If the Linux distribution supports multilib, then parallel builds of R may be installed in the sub-directories lib (32-bit) and lib64 (64-bit). The build to be run may then be selected using the setarch command. For example, a 32-bit build may be run by

setarch i686 R

The setarch command is only operational if both 32-bit and 64-bit builds are installed. If there is only one installation of R, then this will always be run regardless of the architecture specified by the setarch command.

There can be problems with installing packages on the non-native architecture. It is a good idea to run e.g. setarch i686 R for sessions in which packages are to be installed, even if that is the only version of R installed (since this tells the package installation code the architecture needed).

There is a potential problem with packages using Java, as the post-install for a ‘i686’ RPM on ‘x86_64’ Linux reconfigures Java and will find the ‘x86_64’ Java. If you know where a 32-bit Java is installed you may be able to run (as root)

export JAVA_HOME=<path to jre directory of 32-bit Java>
setarch i686 R CMD javareconf

to get a suitable setting.

When this mechanism is used, the version of Rscript in e.g. /usr/bin will be the last installed, but an architecture-specific version will be available in e.g. /usr/lib64/R/bin. Normally all installed architectures will run on the platform so the architecture of Rscript does not matter.

2.7 Other Options

There are many other installation options, most of which are listed by configure –help. Almost all of those not listed elsewhere in this manual are either standard autoconf options not relevant to R or intended for specialist uses by the R developers.

One that may be useful when working on R itself is the option –disable-byte-compiled-packages, which ensures that the base and recommended packages are not byte-compiled. (Alternatively the (make or environment) variable R_NO_BASE_COMPILE can be set to a non-empty value for the duration of the build.)

Option –with-internal-tzcode makes use of R’s own code and copy of the Olson database for managing timezones. This will be preferred where there are issues with the system implementation, usually involving times after 2037 or before 1916. An alternative time-zone directory10 can be used, pointed to by environment variable TZDIR: this should contain files such as Europe/London. On all tested OSes the system timezone was deduced correctly, but if necessary it can be set as the value of environment variable TZ.

2.7.1 OpenMP Support

By default configure searches for suitable options11 for OpenMP support for the C, C++98, FORTRAN 77 and Fortran compilers.

Only the C result is currently used for R itself, and only if MAIN_LD/DYLIB_LD were not specified. This can be overridden by specifying


Use for packages has similar restrictions (involving SHLIB_LD and similar: note that as FORTRAN 77 code is normally linked by the C compiler, both need to support OpenMP) and can be overridden by specifying some of


Setting to an empty value will disable OpenMP for that compiler (and configuring with –disable-openmp will disable all detection of OpenMP). The configure detection test is to compile and link a standalone OpenMP program, which is not the same as compiling a shared object and loading it into the C program of R’s executable. Note that overridden values are not tested.

2.7.2 C++ Support

C++ is not used by R itself, but support is provided for installing packages with C++ code via make macros defined in file etc/Makeconf (and with explanations in file






The macros CXX etc are those used by default for C++ code. configure will attempt to set the rest suitably, choosing for CXX11STD a suitable flag such as -std=c++11 for C++11 support. Similarly, configure will if possible choose for CXX14STD a flag12 such as -std=c++14 for C++14 support and -std=c++1z for support for the forthcoming C++17 standard. The inferred values can be overridden in file or on the configure command line: user-supplied values will be tested compiling some C++11/14/17 code.

R versions 3.1.0 to 3.3.3 used CXX1X rather than CXX11, and these forms are deprecated but still accepted.

It may be13 that there is no suitable flag for C++11 support, in which case a different compiler could be selected for CXX11 and its corresponding flags. Likewise, a different compiler can be specified for C++14 support with CXX14 and for C++17 support with CXX17. Some compilers14 by default assume a later standard than C++98 whereas the latter is assumed by some packages. So users of GCC 6 might like to specify

CXX='g++ -std=gnu++98'

The -std flag is supported by the GCC, clang, Intel and Solaris compilers (the latter from version 12.4). Currently accepted values are (plus some synonyms)

g++:     c++98 gnu++98 c++11 gnu+11 c++14 gnu++14 c++1z gnu++1z
Intel:   gnu+98 c++11 c++14 (from 16.0) c++17 (from 17.0)
Solaris: c++03 c++11 c++14 (from 12.5)

(Those for clang++ are not documented, but seem to be based on g++.) Versions 4.3.x to 4.8.x of g++ accepted flag -std=c++0x with partial support15 for C++11: this is currently still accepted as a deprecated synonym for -std=c++11. (At least for versions 4.8.x it has sufficient support to be picked by configure.) Option -std=c++14 was introduced in version 5.x.

‘Standards’ for g++ starting with ‘gnu’ enable ‘GNU extensions’: what those are is hard to track down.

For the use of C++11 and later in R packages see the ‘Writing R Extensions’ manual.

2.8 Testing an Installation

Full post-installation testing is possible only if the test files have been installed with

make install-tests

which populates a tests directory in the installation.

If this has been done, two testing routes are available. The first is to move to the home directory of the R installation (as given by R.home()) and run

cd tests
## followed by one of
../bin/R CMD make check
../bin/R CMD make check-devel
../bin/R CMD make check-all

and other useful targets are test-BasePackages and test-Recommended to run tests of the standard and recommended packages (if installed) respectively.

This re-runs all the tests relevant to the installed R (including for example code in the package vignettes), but not for example the ones checking the example code in the manuals nor making the standalone Rmath library. This can occasionally be useful when the operating environment has been changed, for example by OS updates or by substituting the BLAS (see Shared BLAS).

Parallel checking of packages may be possible: set the environment variable TEST_MC_CORES to the maximum number of processes to be run in parallel. This affects both checking the package examples (part of make check) and package sources (part of make check-devel and make check-recommended). It does require a make command which supports the make -j n option: most do but on Solaris you need to select GNU make or dmake. Where parallel checking of package sources is done, a log file pngname.log is left in the tests directory for inspection.

Alternatively, the installed R can be run, preferably with –vanilla. Then

Sys.setenv(LC_COLLATE = "C", LC_TIME = "C", LANGUAGE = "en")
tools::testInstalledPackages(scope = "base")
tools::testInstalledPackages(scope = "recommended")

runs the basic tests and then all the tests on the standard and recommended packages. These tests can be run from anywhere: the basic tests write their results in the tests folder of the R home directory and run fewer tests than the first approach: in particular they do not test things which need Internet access—that can be tested by


These tests work best if diff (in Rtools*.exe for Windows users) is in the path.

It is possible to test the installed packages (but not their package-specific tests) by testInstalledPackages even if make install-tests was not run.

Note that the results may depend on the language set for times and messages: for maximal similarity to reference results you may want to try setting (before starting the R session)


and use a UTF-8 or Latin-1 locale.